Inspired by industry 4.0, Myanmar’s UMG Group faces exciting times ahead as it seeks to remodel its operations in a relentless pursuit of excellence
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki
The latter 20th century was largely a time of prosperity for Asia.
Countries across the continent experienced a surge in economic activities from the 1960s to the 1990s, with the likes South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong averaging annual growth rates of around seven percent within this period.
However, July 1997 marked a sharp end to this golden era as one of the worst financial crises in decades swept across the region. The collapse of the Thai Baht quickly spread uncertainty around the world, resulting in a wave of currency depreciations across Southeast Asian nations, devaluing stock markets that led to mass private debt.
While many companies battened down the hatches during this period, one firm, UMG Group, saw opportunity amidst the apprehension, founding in 1998.
“UMG began with just four members as an equipment and parts trading company,” explains Kiwi Aliwarga, CEO of UMG Myanmar. “Since then, having been lucrative through a time of turbulence, we have largely continued to focus our ambitions on the machinery industry, providing key products and services.”
Headquartered in Myanmar, UMG has expanded substantially over the years, both evident in the depth of its portfolio and through the Company’s broad footprint across the Southeast Asian region.
“We have operations in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia,” Aliwarga continues, “and in 2012 we decided to broaden our outlook. We diversified into a number of new industries that we felt would benefit from our services and expertise, from education to technology.”
Today, the firm operates across nine core sectors, catering to a range of machinery and equipment-centric needs for a manifold of different clients.
‘Relentless Pursuit of Excellence’
Flexibility has remained a core value throughout UMG’s history, a constant that Aliwarga believes has been crucial in allowing the firm to remain ahead of the curve, particularly when operating in the competitive markets that it does.
Asked about his ideals for the Company in the way of progression, he cites innovation and adaptability as two fundamentals: “We need to improve, extend and expand our range in line with both the economic climate and the growing expectations of our customers.”
To this end, the firm is currently in the process of changing its business model, moving away from its role as a product vendor, instead seeking to become a services-centric firm by leveraging the latest technologies to help its clients bolster their productivity, capacity and industry nous.
“In my eyes, 2018 has become the beginning of the digital transformation era for UMG,” Aliwarga adds.
However, while the Company’s willingness to redesign its structure will be crucial in achieving this next step, so too will be UMG’s ethos, coined the ‘Relentless Pursuit of Excellence’, that will continue to remain rigid throughout this process.
Aliwarga continues: “In facilitating this transformation, we will enhance our team, fostering respect, teamwork and trust in everything we do – philosophies that we have been advocating since our inception.”
Established in 1998, UMG Group operates across Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, providing machinery products and services across a wide range of business sectors, including:
· Financial services
· Supply chain
· Media and leisure
· Property and infrastructure
· Telecommunications and IT
The firm’s product portfolio spans an equally broad base, featuring anything from forklifts to power generators to combine harvesters.
Beginning this brand-new chapter, UMG recognises that it will be no easy feat conquering the world of technology.
“Technology is progressing so rapidly, with new concepts and ideas emerging onto the world stage every day,” Aliwarga explains.
“We know that we will face challenges, and it will require blood, sweat and tears, but we recognise that to remain relevant in the modern day we must become early adopters. Doing so will keep us at the forefront of industry solutions for years to come.
“We’ve seen it with Alibaba, with Amazon, and we ourselves now need to rethink our own role before disruption does it for us.”
Proactive by nature and innovative by breed, UMG Group has to date invested approximately $150 million into new technologies, from drones to biotech to 3D printing for the construction industry. Further, looking ahead, the firm has earmarked an additional $200 million in finances for the next six years that will largely be attributed to exploring more areas including digital healthcare, IoT systems and robotics.
In total, around 60 percent of the firm’s entire investment expenditure can be attributed to the adoption and implementation of new technologies.
Disruptive yet humble
Despite being a champion of innovation, the Company equally ensures that it remains firmly grounded.
Alongside these extensive investments into bolstering its own operations, UMG readily gives back to the communities that it operates within, helping to build schools and monasteries and provide financial support to a multitude of charities.
“UMG ensures that it helps those in need,” says Aliwarga, “prioritising portions of our budgets and profits to donate to CSR initiatives.”
Internally the firm provides young people with the opportunities they need to kickstart their careers, recognised as a leader in upholding the platform for personal progression. Attracting university graduates, UMG prides itself on offering the chance put key skills to the test, evident in the average age of ‘UMGians’ being just 28.
“In line with our transformation plan, we will continue to prioritise upskilling, emphasising digital and experimental learning,” states Aliwarga. “We hope to play our part in developing the next generation of leaders for Myanmar, and who knows, maybe in years to come we will see UMGians or our ex-UMGians holding key leadership roles in the private and public spheres.”
Defining the next decade
It is this mentality, culture and willingness to think outside the box that will continue to determine UMG’s success in the future.
Moving from selling products to providing services, powered by big data, AI and other emerging technologies, UMG Group can expect to maintain its rise to the forefront of the market for years to come.
Aliwarga concludes: “In the next decade we will come to see a different UMG, owed to our sustained culture and message, relentlessly pursuing excellence.
“It is this that defines us, differentiates us, and is key to the growth of our brand.”